Briefing with State Department Spokesperson Sean McCormack on P-5 Meeting in London (Excerpts)

January 17, 2006

Weapon Program: 

  • Nuclear

Related Country: 

  • Iran
  • Israel

. . .

QUESTION: Do you have any comments on Acting Premier Ehud Olmert's comments today saying that Israel can't live with an Iranian nuclear bomb?

MR. MCCORMACK: I think that we all -- I haven't seen those comments, Janine. But the concerns about Iran's nuclear weapon are not limited to Israel, the United States or any single country. We have seen that. Iran obtaining a nuclear weapon is -- would be a destabilizing event for the Middle East region, as well as the rest of the world. That is why we and others are working so hard on a diplomatic solution to see that Iran does not -- is not able to master the critical technologies that would allow it to obtain a nuclear weapon, the material for a nuclear weapon and a nuclear weapon.

QUESTION: Do you expect this to come up tomorrow at the Secretary's meeting with Shimon Peres -- the Iranian issue?

MR. MCCORMACK: I expect that if it -- that she'll be ready to talk about it if it does.

QUESTION: Could I try --

MR. MCCORMACK: Let's move around a little bit, Barry.


QUESTION: What is your reading of the meeting yesterday of the EU-3 and Russia, China, and you -- and the U.S.? Are you satisfied with your outcome?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I think we're satisfied in the respect that all the parties agree that Iran's behavior has crossed the line and that they need to suspend their enrichment activities, that they cannot be allowed to obtain and master that technology and that technique. As for -- and the EU-3 has called for an IAEA emergency Board of Governors meeting on February 2nd or 3rd. We support that and we'll see what happens at the Board of Governors meeting.

Now, with respect to the referral to the Security Council and what that referral says and once you get to the Security Council what happens there, those are going to be matters for further discussion. I think you should view this meeting here as an informal meeting, yet the beginning of this new diplomatic phase, a more intensive diplomatic phase in addressing the issue of Iran's referral to the Security Council.

QUESTION: But Germany said that the discussions were difficult. Apparently, UK said that there was no consensus. So they are not that --

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I'm not sure they said no consensus. I think that what they pointed to was there are still some discussions, follow-up discussions, that need to be had concerning the step going from the IAEA to the Security Council. Again, we believe that we have the votes for referral to the Security Council and we believe that that is the action the IAEA is going to take when they meet in February.

QUESTION: The Russians --

MR. MCCORMACK: Again, whether or not the Russians vote with the rest of the world is up to them. That I will refer you to Russian officials and Chinese officials or any other particular country about how they may vote at the IAEA Board of Governors meeting. But this is -- we do know that Russian officials are quite concerned about Iranian behavior. They have put out a proposal to the Iranians about how to address the issue of having a civilian -- a peaceful civilian nuclear capability that the Iranians say they want, while also meeting the just demands of the international community for objective guarantees so that the international community can be comfortable that Iran will not develop those critical pathway technologies that would allow it to obtain a nuclear weapon.

So I would only say that over the coming days and weeks, you're going to see a lot of discussion. There's going to be a lot of intensive diplomacy that occurs between now and that meeting. Under Secretary Burns is going to be continuing on to India as well as Sri Lanka, two members of the IAEA Board of Governors. Under Secretary Bob Joseph is in Vienna today for consultations with representatives from fellow board member countries. He is going to be also going on to Moscow and Tokyo as well. He may have some additional stops. We'll try to keep you updated on those.

So that's part -- those are also part of the efforts. The Secretary, I would expect, is going to be working the phones on this issue. So stay tuned. There is going to be a lot of activity between now and the beginning of February on this issue.


QUESTION: Can I follow up? Mohamed ElBaradei held a secret meeting -- well, held a meeting with the Iranian negotiator over the weekend and it was obvious they're trying to lobby to head off action in the United Nations Security Council. The question is: Does the United States feel it would be inappropriate at this time for anybody to have talks with the Iranians until it goes to the Security Council or is that a process that could --

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, of course, you want to try to continue to encourage the Iranians to engage in a diplomatic solution to this issue. That's the goal of this exercise. That's what we are trying to achieve. The problem is that the Iranians want to have it both ways. They want to, on one hand, say, well, we're going to continue our enrichment activities so we can get better at it and eventually build a nuclear weapon; while on the other hand, yes, we will continue -- we would like to have some discussions with you about how not to do that. Well, that doesn't seem to me to be a very good deal. Those things, as a matter of fact, are mutually exclusive.

You have to, in order to convey some sense of good faith in this, which they have not to date with their obfuscation, their hiding of the program, their refusal to answer the IAEA's questions, their refusal to engage the EU-3 in good faith in their negotiations -- and we just -- we haven't seen. So again, we all agree, and we all agree coming out of this London meeting, that Iran has to end its enrichment activities. They have to suspend their enrichment activities and that's -- thus far, we have not seen the Iranians willing to do that. As a matter of fact, they went the other way just last week. They broke the seals after saying that they would.

So at this point, I don't think that we see anything that indicates the Iranians are willing to engage in a serious diplomatic process that would lead to the solution that I talked about: the international community having objective guarantees that it would not -- that it could not obtain a nuclear weapon. That's why we're headed to the Security Council right now because of Iran's refusal to do that. The onus is on the Iranians. It's not on the EU-3 or the United States or anybody else to come up with some other neat proposal for them to consider. This is -- it is on the Iranians now to take actions as the Secretary -- you heard from the Secretary last week.

QUESTION: Just a follow-up to be clear on that. So the Iranians are seeking negotiations at this point. Is it your position that there should not be --

MR. MCCORMACK: I'm not sure that they're seeking negotiations.

QUESTION: Well, they're asking the Brits and the Brits said it would be --

MR. MCCORMACK: But this is -- look, this is -- you know, what they're engaged in is firing up a lot of chaff. They've started up their diplomatic fog machine here.

QUESTION: So my question is, short of any specific show of good faith by the Iranians, is the position maybe there should not be substantial negotiations until they make that gesture; as you said, the ball is in their court?

MR. MCCORMACK: Again, they haven't done anything to indicate that they are ready to negotiate or engage in a diplomatic process in good faith. The EU-3 called their effort as having been at a dead end because of the Iranians. So the onus is on the Iranians. We'll see what they do. We are going to continue with our -- working in concert with our international partners on this issue on the diplomatic track. And like I said before, we're headed to the Security Council.

QUESTION: Entirely different subject.

MR. MCCORMACK: Is there any more on this?

QUESTION: Still on Iran.

MR. MCCORMACK: Okay. Saul has Iran and we'll come back.

QUESTION: You said it was more likely than ever that there would be a Security Council referral. Since then, have the chances gone up, down?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, that was before the EU-3 came out with their pronouncement that their negotiating process had come to an end. Right now we have -- what are the facts we have before us? We have now an IAEA emergency Board of Governors meeting at the beginning of February in a couple of weeks. And we believe at that point, there will be a vote for a referral to the Security Council. Iran has already been found in noncompliance with its NPT, Nonproliferation Treaty, obligations. And we would expect the next step after the Board of Governors meeting would be, next stop, New York.

QUESTION: One more. As far as you know, have the Iranians said that they will reconsider the Russian proposal? I know that there were some reports of that.

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah. Talk is cheap. Yeah, they've -- again, we've seen a lot of -- you know, we've seen a lot of talk from the Iranians. Again, this is sort of what I refer to as their diplomatic fog machine that they're starting up.

. . .